Israel faces the final stretch of an ambitious project that aims to convert the Hebrew state into the fourth country in the world to reach the lunar surface – after the United States, Russia and China. The space probe Beresheet (Genesis), owned by the Israeli company SpaceIL, will be launched the next morning from the North American base of Cape Canaveral (Florida).
The device with the shape of an arachnid of two meters in diameter, 1.5m in height and 585 kilos of weight -of which 421 will be fuel- will be propelled by one of the Falcon 9 rockets of the company SpaceX, owned by Silicon Valley mogul, Elon Musk, also founder of Tesla. Your trip will last seven weeks in which you will orbit around the Earth six times before entering the lunar orbit around April 3 and land on day 11 in the Sea of Tranquility – the same place you arrived on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11, the first mission that reached the moon and marked a historic milestone for humanity at the hands of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
"Each successful step we take will pave the way for the next one until we reach the moon. Our team and the Israel Aerospace Industry have been reviewing the probe and all its systems for months. Carrying out complex tests and preparing everything for any unforeseen event that may arise during the mission ", explained the General Director of SpaceIL, Ido Anteby, last Monday in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan.
According to Israeli experts, the probe will barely remain operational for three days on the lunar surface because it is not equipped with any thermal control system that allows it to counteract the high daytime temperatures, which can exceed 121ºC. A short period of time in which, thanks to different scientific instruments, will make magnetic measurements to try to unravel the mystery of how and when the lunar rocks were magnetized. In addition, Beresheet is equipped with a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from the United States space agency (POT) and a complex system of mirrors through which a laser beam will be projected in order to help scientists locate the probe from Earth. Thanks to the five cameras with which it is equipped – some attached to one of its legs – images of both the descent and the place in which it poses will be recorded.
The Israeli device will leave on the satellite the so-called time capsule, with a note from the late President Simon Peres, a copy of the Declaration of Independence of Israel, the lyrics of the Hebrew national anthem, several children's drawings, some memories of a holocaust survivor and a copy of the Hebrew Bible, engraved with nanotechnology in a metal circle the size of a coin. "We want to use this as an inspiration tool for children because today's children do not want to be scientists or engineers but to enter a reality on television," said Yonatan Weintraub, co-founder of SpaceIL.
The mission – which aims to emulate Apollo 11 in the 50th anniversary of its launch – it keeps a surprise in the form of a peace message written on a plaque that the Israelis also plan to deposit on the lunar surface. "On our plaque there is a message of peace for humanity as a whole and for the Middle East in particular," revealed the Jewish philanthropist Morris Khan, last July during the presentation of the probe in Israel.
The project was born eight years ago thanks to him and the funding also contributed by the game magnate, Sheldon Adelson. Both bet on the dream of three engineers -Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, who wanted to participate in the international contest, Google XPRIZE, endowed with 20 million dollars (17 million euros) and present a device capable of reaching the moon . They failed to meet the deadlines to continue in the competition of the technological giant but to capture the attention of Khan, who turned to the project, whose cost has hovered around 100 million dollars (about 88 million euros).
The launch of the lunar module, originally scheduled for last December, was delayed because atmospheric conditions were not adequate for the mission to succeed. According to the forecasts of the engineers of Cape Canaveral, now is the ideal time for the launch because the conditions on the lunar surface are favorable to 80%. If the mission is aborted this morning, we would have to wait until May to try again.